Celebrating rock ’n’ roll legends

Twin Cities music veteran Mick Sterling leads an ode to the Grand Ole Opry.

File Provided By Mick Sterling Presents

File Provided By Mick Sterling Presents

Grace Kramer

Mick Sterling started his Twin Cities music career in 1980. For a few years, he fumbled around in different bands until he hit his stride in 1988 and started performing 200 gigs a year. Now, 35 years later, Sterling has shown no signs of slowing down. 
 
“As long as it’s still fun, I get to do music that moves me, I get to play with great musicians, I’m physically healthy and I don’t look stupid doing it, I’ll keep performing,” Sterling said. 
 
On Friday, Sterling and his band Memphis and the Meantimes will perform their concert “Songs of the Grand Ole Opry.” The concert celebrates rock ‘n’ roll and country legends such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins.
 
Sterling started his most well-known band, Mick Sterling and the Stud Brothers, in 1998. For 17 years, the band performed around the Twin Cities. 
 
Backed by a 10-piece horn band, Sterling’s raspy, soulful voice sang to the bluesy rock and R&B tunes inspired by some of his favorites such as Elton John, James Brown and Van Morrison. The band played at Bunker’s Music Bar and Grill in Minneapolis every Sunday.
 
“I booked Mick for the first time when he approached me with the Stud Brothers around 1988,” said James Klein, who is in charge of booking talent for Bunker’s. “They offered to play for free until they developed a crowd, and it happened quite quickly.”
 
Sterling considers Bunker’s his home base and plays there with the Stud Brothers about three or four times a year. 
 
“His style is so authentic and the R&B, soul music he plays is timeless. It’s not like other styles that come and go,” Klein said.
 
The Mid-America Music Hall of Fame inducted the band in 2010. Sterling started performing his Grand Ole Opry concert after he saw Gillian Welch, David Rawlings, Elvis
Costello and Emmylou Harris sing a song called “Must You Throw Dirt in my Face” on TV. 
 
“It’s just this perfectly beautiful country song,” Sterling said. “I was by myself and I just started crying. It was an embarrassing display of manhood for sure.”
 
Sterling quickly formed his band Memphis and the Meantimes, and they have been performing the concert on and off.
 
“Sun Records and the Grand Ole Opry are the pillars of rock ’n’ roll,” Sterling said. “Any artist from Zeppelin to Little Richard to the Beatles would say the exact same thing.”
 
Along with his Grand Ole Opry concert, Sterling has bands that perform with him do tributes to artists like Van Morrison, Elton John and Otis Redding.
 
“We’re not doing Vegas shows,” Sterling said. “We’re honoring these perfect, masterpiece songs.”
 
Sterling has put writing original music on hold and is celebrating others with his tribute shows. 
 
“The Elton show is very emotional to me because when I was a teenager, that’s what I would sing all the time,” Sterling said. “It’s helped me out in the happy and sad times.”
 
Today, Sterling puts much of his focus on charity work rather than his music. 
 
In the mid-’90s Sterling produced a charity concert event that went on for about seven years called “Heart and Soul”, which raised money for local children’s causes.
 
“We played with incredible master musicians; it was a big stage and thousands of people showed up,” Sterling said. “It was for such a great cause that was really, very special.”
 
Sterling also created a charity called The 30-Days Foundation that assists people in tough financial situations. 
 
“He is just a very giving, very caring guy,” Klein said. 
 
For now, Sterling doesn’t plan to release another record.
 
“I don’t know if I’m going to do that again or not,” Sterling said. “I don’t know if there’s a real need for that in this world. It would be fun to get back in the studio.”
 
Even without original music, Sterling is still looking for ways to show his voice. 
 
“When you get to playing as long as I have in town, the best thing you can do is keep yourself stimulated, do different things that people don’t expect and play with really good people,” Sterling said.